Responding Biblically to the Reality of Evil

July 15, 2016

Good Afternoon Church,

I pray that the everlasting love of God the Father displayed through the sacrificial love of God the Son will warm your heart this day. Our hearts and prayers go out for all the loved ones whose precious lives were personally and tragically impacted by the evil acts that hit France yesterday. Evil acts are the undeniable reality and ramifications of living in a fallen world,¹ permeated by fallen people,² and ruled sadistically by a fallen angel.³ Evil, both moral and natural, comes in many forms and fashions and inundates all of our lives in multiple ways. The Bible never denies or minimizes the heinous nature of evil, but will often point people to the inseparable link between evil, sin, and judgment, and subsequently call people to repentance.⁴ While not diminishing the loss and hurt of specific individuals during these tragic events, each one of these sad stories should reawaken our hearts to the pervasive nature of sin, and the gracious, undeniable call by God for man to repent and receive the only lasting solution to his greatest problem. The gospel is the only answer and solution to the evil that dwells within and around all of us!

Sadly, many of us get distracted by current events and even discouraged by the demise of our world, yet the Bible makes it very clear that this world will be marked by evil that escalates exponentially towards the end.⁵ However, I want you to know that grappling with the problem of evil, which is a problem for us but has never been a problem for God, is not easy but necessary. I have done a lot of research, reading, study, and writing on this sad topic, and so today I want to give to you a little excerpt from something I have previously written in hopes that it will help encourage and equip you in how to react honestly and biblically to the evil that marks a fallen world.

Responding Biblically to the Reality of Evil

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This response flows directly from the Scriptural understanding that there really is no all-encompassing solution to the multifaceted nature of evil that will totally answer all of man’s questions. However, this does not mean that God does not have an all-encompassing answer, but that He has not made it known in the revealed Word. Although the Bible does not deal with the problem of evil exhaustively, it still does wrestle with it honestly, and instructs about it accurately, so that the Christian does have a biblical framework to follow. Thus, the struggling saint finds comfort and peace when the storms of life assail from the guidance and counsel specifically given within the Word of God. Therefore, as one grapples with how to live biblically in light of evil, he learns that he must embrace compatibilism, revel in the gospel, and ultimately trust God.

Learning to Embrace Compatibilism

The first step to responding biblically to the reality of evil is learning to embrace compatibilism, which basically means that God’s sovereign control over all things and man’s responsibility are compatible.⁶ Personally embracing compatibilism will have a direct positive effect upon the life of any Christian as he will live his life in light of God’s sovereignty not in light of life’s circumstances. The Bible makes it clear that God is exhaustively and meticulously in control over all life including

the good, bad, and the ugly.⁷ He controls the actions and the events of all people, the rise and fall of all nations, and the life and death of every individual from the royal ruler of a nation to the beggar without a home.⁸ Therefore, as the believer traverses this world filled with trials and tribulations, he finds great confidence and comfort from knowing that all the storms of life have first been sifted through the loving hands of a sovereign God!

However, embracing compatibilism means more than just having a providential perspective because it also involves the believer living life in the light of human responsibility. This is a sobering reality which helps balance man’s sinful inclination to overstress divine sovereignty so that fatalism rules. The Bible declares without reservation that man is utterly responsible for the choices he makes before a holy and righteous God.¹° Therefore, the struggling saint walks circumspectly lest he allow the trials of life to trip him into sin, so he seeks to be thankful in all circumstances praising God for the opportunities to grow closer to Christ.¹¹ Yet, embracing compatibilism also requires learning to live in the light of biblical mystery where everything is not revealed. Thus, how God is exhaustively and meticulously sovereign and man is free so that he is held responsible for his sinful actions will never be fully understood, but it must be fully embraced. This biblical perspective helps greatly while dealing with the personal ramifications of evil as the believer learns that God is more interested in conforming him into the image of Christ than answering all of his questions.¹²

Learning to Revel in the Gospel

The second step to responding biblically to the reality of evil is learning to revel in the gospel which helps tremendously when dealing with calamity as the cross was the greatest display of God’s providential power in, through, and over evil. The gospel should be the first place all believers turn in the midst of trials as it is the ultimate provision for dealing with the problems of life. It is there that man truly learns the depth and breadth of the love of God as he sees God’s wrath poured out on his sinless Son so that the sinful slave might go free.¹³ Furthermore, the cross is also the place where the believer experientially learns about the power of God as sin, Satan, and the flesh have been crucified and their power cancelled.¹⁴ Moreover, it is at the cross that humility comes as the believer finally sees himself for who he truly is and what he rightfully deserves: hell! Therefore, the question in the midst of trouble turns from “why is this happening, Lord” to “why does this not happen all the time, because it is what I deserve as a rebellious person”.¹⁵

Furthermore, reveling in the gospel is the right way to respond to evil because it is at the cross that one learns about the mighty provision of God who divinely enables and sustains the believer while suffering. Without the gospel there would be no Holy Spirit, and without the Holy Spirit there would be no way to cope with calamity and chaos. It is the Holy Spirit that intercedes for and with the believer, enabling him to cry out to the Father for help.¹⁶ It is the Holy Spirit who instructs the believer in the Word of God which guides and nourishes the struggling saint. Furthermore, it is also the Holy Spirit who helps the believer develop patience and self- control which are pivotal for persevering through the pressures of life.¹⁷ Therefore, it is at the cross of the suffering Christ where tremendous comfort, peace, and strength can be found for the suffering saint.¹⁸

Learning to Trust God

A final step to responding biblically to the problem of evil is learning to trust God, which begins with resting in God’s character. The Bible dramatically reveals the awesome nature and character of God, which must be the grid through which the Christian interprets the calamity he experiences. There are three attributes of God often linked to the trials of life that always directly help the hurting when properly understood. First is the fact the God is completely sovereign, and though this has already been referenced it bears repeating. Consider the comfort that comes as one meditates on how God never exercises “… His sovereignty capriciously, but only in a way as His infinite love deems best for us”.¹⁹ Furthermore, one learns to also lean on the reality that God is infinitely wise which means that no matter what might happen, God ultimately knows what is best for the believer.²° Moreover, contemplating on the fact that God is love, and how that love is unfailing towards believers, is a great encouragement as the Christian learns to revel in the reality that the steadfast love of God is better than life.²¹

Learning to trust God also means the suffering saint will learn to rest in the purposes and promises of God which enables him to look past the trial to the treasures they bring.²² The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the believer’s ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God. It was why he was created,²³ why he was saved,²⁴ why he serves,²⁵ and it is ultimately why he suffers.²⁶ Scripture also makes it clear that trials are often the greatest tool in the hand of God for fulfilling this primary purpose of God as He conforms believers into the image of the Son of God.²⁷ Therefore, through resting in the purposes and promises of God, one learns to trust Him more amidst the trials of life as he seeks to share in the sufferings of Christ, so that he can grow in his understanding of Christ.²⁸ Furthermore, this understanding is a great catalyst for worship, as the Christian now looks beyond what is happening to him, and focuses on what God is doing for him and through him by the means of misery.

Conclusion

The reality and personal ramifications of evil has caused consternation and confusion among many Christians as they try to coalesce their understanding of a good and loving God with their individual experience of pain and suffering. Furthermore, a search for some solution to free God from any sense of being responsible for the evil that permeates society has been a relentless struggle often yielding less than adequate defenses with many being unbiblical in nature. Sadly, this has far too often only served to further cloud the issue through distorting the reality of evil and diminishing the character of God. This has partially happened because of a lack of properly understanding the problem of evil, as it truly is multifaceted in nature and therefore cannot be answered with one neat and tidy defense. One can substantiate this fact as he evaluates some of the common solutions to the problem of evil as they ultimately prove to be inadequate and unbiblical. However, they ultimately fail because they seek to solve what Scripture leaves unsolved, as the Bible never gives a nice complete answer to the many faces of evil, and God is not obligated to articulate answers according to the lessons learned from Job. Yet, Scripture does give a biblical and logical framework by which a suffering saint can sift the struggles of life and find peace in the midst of pain. This happens as he embraces compatibilism, revels in the gospel, and learns to trust God more even in the face of the many mysteries that surround misery.

I pray this has been helpful as you seek to grow in not becoming weary while living for the Lord in this difficult land. One of the greatest blessings of God is the corporate gathering of the believers where we come together to offer praise to our sovereign King for all that He is and all He has done. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday where we will consider some specific virtues we are called to “put on” as we dress for success! May the Lord bless you this weekend!

For His Glory,

Pastor Matt

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